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Sinking Ship: the new Kyle Thompson's personal exhibition

A journey through abandoned and empty America

Sinking Ship: the new Kyle Thompson's personal exhibition
A journey through abandoned and empty America
Sinking Ship: the new Kyle Thompson's personal exhibition A journey through abandoned and empty America

Kyle Thompson was born in 1992 in Chicago. His photographic career started with a series of shots of abandoned houses in his city. The interest in abandoned places like buildings or woods comes from a fascination for emptiness and the remnants of the past of others in which we come across in our everyday life. The Sinking Ship exhibition, which will be open today Wednesday, October 20th at the aA29 Project Room in Milan, deals with the deserted America of the Midwest, with its desolate plains and ghost towns.

The photographer captures these modern age ruins from both the inside and the outside, in a perspective that puts the abandoned house in the context of a general abandonment. What Thompson photographs another America, lonely and disillusioned, driven to a collapse that is not only economic but also moral. He appears in some of the shots, but devoid of identity, his presence is ambiguous and unreal like that of a ghost.

The shot titled Toy Gun, which shows the empty box of a toy gun, speaks of abandonment and emptiness and suggests, through its absence, the menaceality of the weapon.

I've always been attracted to the idea that these spaces contain so much evidence of life while allowing you to be alone. It feels like a contradiction somewhat; you are able to meet these people through their belongings, but with no actual human contact. This allows a more open interpretation. You're forced to add your own context to their lives. Trying to decipher these items in a way that is entirely authentic is impossible, and you end up with dozens of fragments and small ideas of their lives, rather than a complete blueprint. This then, forces any interpretation of their lives to rely on their tangible possessions. I'm fascinated by that concept; trying to determine in some way how our possessions define us.

In Bird's Nest, the flight of two swallows into an empty room suggests an intimate and natural life that keeps going on in spite of the desolation that surrounds it.

The shot Coyote, in which the eponymous animal dangles killed by a sign banning hunting suggests a black irony and speaks about the brutality of places where urban civilization never arrived.

The title is a metaphor for these towns and their slow downfall. When speaking to some of the residents who now live alone in these towns, it felt like being on this sinking vessel. They've witnessed the towns death first-hand. Many of them grew up in these towns while there were a couple hundred residents, and now are surrounded by evidence of their absence.

I think Instagram has changed things, but I don't believe it has devalued photography. Artistic value relies on the viewer, and having a larger pool of work to curate from can cause a more authentic interest in the work. I think sometimes this can cause some more superficial work to rise to the top, but can also allow a more even playing field for work to be shown. I think for it to devalue photography would require photography to have a rigid and definable value, where instead it is based on the value that the viewer interprets it to have.

As I began to take photos, it caused me to seek these locations out more. I wanted to find places that felt like a statement in themselves, and gave me a quiet place to explore and examine the human influence on my surroundings while still allowing myself to create alone.

The title also feels somewhat archaeological; the images are based on the study of the remaining objects as they remain somewhat preserved, although tattered by the weathering of nature and time. 

As a kid I spent a lot of time exploring my surroundings and trying to find these small interesting pockets, often locations where the urban infrastructure clashed with the surrounding nature. Old storm drains, junked cars in the forest, and abandoned homes. I was always very solitary, and wanted to find these quiet hidden spots.